Monday, September 21, 2009

Great Deal on Great Map

So you know those maps that we've all used in schools and work since we were small? Like the one hanging on my dining room wall?

They're wrong. Well, they aren't wrong exactly, but they are optimized for navigation, mainly naval and arial navigation. Turns out my National Geographic map no where near accurately reflects the relative size of countries. Or their locations.

Our standard American map is the Mercator map and it inflates geographic size as we approach the poles. The Peter's Projection Map claims to be an area accurate map of the earth's surfaces (Wikipedia says it's not, either, because when you lay a globe out flat something is going to get distorted). But it does more closely approximate relative size of countries and their actual location in relation to each other.

Seems Peters wasn't the first to point this out, in 1973, and do something about it (he may have "borrowed" the idea from a man named Gall who lived about 100 years before him). And there were others before him. This map thing is a on-going hundred years argument. About 10 years ago, though, all sorts of internal cartographer controversy and bickering lead the major map-heads to issue a rather pissy sounding resolution:

WHEREAS, the earth is round with a coordinate system composed entirely of circles, and

WHEREAS, flat world maps are more useful than globe maps, but flattening the globe surface necessarily greatly changes the appearance of Earth's features and coordinate systems, and

WHEREAS, world maps have a powerful and lasting effect on peoples' impressions of the shapes and sizes of lands and seas, their arrangement, and the nature of the coordinate system, and

WHEREAS, frequently seeing a greatly distorted map tends to make it "look right,"

THEREFORE, we strongly urge book and map publishers, the media and government agencies to cease using rectangular world maps for general purposes or artistic displays. Such maps promote serious, erroneous conceptions by severely distorting large sections of the world, by showing the round Earth as having straight edges and sharp corners, by representing most distances and direct routes incorrectly, and by portraying the circular coordinate system as a squared grid. The most widely displayed rectangular world map is the Mercator (in fact a navigational diagram devised for nautical charts), but other rectangular world maps proposed as replacements for the Mercator also display a greatly distorted image of the spherical Earth.

Basically, get out your globes, people!

All the same, I like the Peter's map for giving me a more accurate idea of the size of land masses. Which means it shows us what size Greenland really is. Alaska, too, as it turns out. I'll hang it up next to my National Geographic map, and keep the globe on the living room table where small children finger it daily.

Enjoy here with me my buddies CJ and Josh absorbing the shock of the Peters Projection Map.

Want to learn more about Peter's Maps? Go to their site. And check the wikipedia article for balance.
Want to get a great deal on a slightly blemished Peter's map, go here and look for the $5 deal!

Happy geography, everyone!

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